The Inkey List vs The Ordinary: Which is Better?
I recently tried several products from The Inkey List, a budget-friendly skincare line sold at Sephora here in the US. Impressed with the results, I decided to try similar products from another very popular budget skincare line, The Ordinary.
Both The Inkey List and The Ordinary are VERY AFFORDABLE (yes!). Both brands focus on single hero-ingredient products, which lend themselves to comparison.
Since both brands offer many of the same hero-ingredient products, I decided to compare my experience with similar products from The Ordinary vs The Inkey List in this post.
This post on The Inkey List vs The Ordinary contains affiliate links, and any purchases made through these links will result in a commission for me at no extra cost to you. Please read my Disclosure for additional information.
A Single Hero Ingredient
Both The Inkey List and The Ordinary are skincare lines with several products that focus on a single hero ingredient.
So while these products are very inexpensive, please keep in mind that you will often need to use multiple single ingredient products to replace other products (often more expensive) that contain numerous active ingredients.
You’ll also need to learn about product formulations and how products should or shouldn’t be combined. Luckily, both brands have very helpful information on their websites on how to use their products.
It’s great to see that both brands educate their customers about their formulations and the benefits of their ingredients.
If you are wondering whether The Inkey List or The Ordinary has better skincare products, let’s look at the formula comparisons for each main ingredient/product type.
The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum vs The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, is a multi-benefit all-star skincare ingredient that is helpful for many skin conditions.
This ingredient is known for its brightening properties and anti-aging benefits, such as reducing the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and dark spots.
Niacinamide also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce the skin’s oil production, so it can be helpful for those with oily skin and acne.
It also helps to repair free radical damage and protect the skin barrier.
The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum
The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum contains 10% niacinamide to reduce excess oil, blemishes, and redness.
This serum is also formulated with 1% multi-molecular hyaluronic acid for hydration and to plump the skin.
Glycerin hydrates, squalane moisturizes, and Pro-Vitamin B5 (panthenol) is an anti-inflammatory.
This lightweight serum sinks in quickly and does not irritate my skin. It does not interfere with other skincare products or makeup. I enjoy the added hydration from hyaluronic acid.
I apply this when my skin is dry and irritated after retinoid use, and it helps to calm my skin and minimize irritation.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% is formulated to reduce the look of skin blemishes and skin congestion.
Like The Inkey List, this niacinamide serum contains a 10% concentration of niacinamide plus zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid at 1%, which helps to balance the visible aspects of sebum activity occurring in the sebaceous glands.
The Ordinary is quick to note that this serum is not meant to be an acne treatment.
The Ordinary recommends Benzoyl Peroxide and/or Retinoic Acid for persistent acne concerns, while Salicylic Acid would help with the temporary (not long-term) improvement of the appearance of blemishes.
Consider using this niacinamide formula alongside acne treatments for additional skin benefits.
This comparison is the perfect example of how everyone’s skin is unique, and what works (or doesn’t work) for me may not work (or work) for you.
Unfortunately, an ingredient in The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% irritates my skin. I’ve used this product several times, and every time my skin becomes itchy and irritated.
I want to love this product because it is a best seller for The Ordinary, but it just didn’t work out for me.
Niacinamide Serums: Which Is Better?
Both niacinamide serums are effective at controlling oil and minimizing the appearance of blemishes. You can’t beat the price of The Ordinary Niacinamide at only $6.00 for 1 oz.
Due to my somewhat sensitive skin, The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum is my pick since it causes no irritation to my somewhat sensitive skin and feels more hydrating than The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%.
The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid vs The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
Hyaluronic acid is a skin-hydrating superstar, as it’s known to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. Don’t let the word acid scare you away!
This is a hero hydrator that can be combined with direct acids and skincare actives for maximum hydration.
The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum
I tried a few hyaluronic acids before trying The Inkey List’s, and they always left my skin sticky or tacky, and I was not impressed.
The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum contains low and high molecular weight hyaluronic acid 2% for optimum penetration and hydration.
It also contains Matrixyl 3000 peptide, which targets fine lines while plumping the skin and supporting collagen production.
The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum is one of the best that I’ve tried. It dries quickly, works well with other products in my skincare routine, and really hydrates.
The only drawback for me was the squeeze bottle. Sometimes the serum would drip down the side of the bottle. This is a minor issue, considering how much I love the product itself.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 contains low-, medium- and high-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid and also includes a next-generation HA crosspolymer plus B5 for even more hydration.
The glass bottle and dropper make for a better delivery system than The Inkey List.
It also dries quickly and hydrates dehydrated and dry skin quite well. Precisely what it was designed to do.
Hyaluronic Acid Serum: Which Is Better?
While I like The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum wins this one. The Inkey List hydrates without being sticky or tacky, and as a bonus, it contains Matrixyl 3000 peptide that targets wrinkles and fine lines.
Pure Vitamin C
The Inkey List Vitamin C Cream vs The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone
Vitamin C is a hero antioxidant that targets fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, dullness, and loss of elasticity and firmness. It’s great for brightening the skin.
I like to apply vitamin C products in the mornings since vitamin C targets free-radical damage that your skin is often exposed to during the daylight hours.
The Inkey List Vitamin C Cream
The Inkey List Vitamin C Serum contains 30% pure L-ascorbic acid and three silicones. It is a water-free, highly concentrated formula.
Instructions note that you can add a few drops of hyaluronic acid serum to the formula. This will thin it out and provide added moisture.
I noticed some tingling and irritation immediately after applying it. The formula is somewhat grainy, and you need to be careful about layering it alongside other skincare ingredients because it may cause pilling.
While this product is for all skin types, combination and oily skin types may benefit most from it since it leaves a smooth matte finish on your face and acts almost like a primer for your makeup.
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone also contains 30% pure L-ascorbic acid plus hyaluronic acid in a silicone base.
This formula feels smooth on the skin, but due to the very high concentration of topical vitamin C in the form of a suspension of very fine L-ascorbic acid powder, this product may cause an intense tingling sensation until your skin’s tolerance is increased.
If your skin is sensitive to this product, The Ordinary notes that this formula may be mixed with other creams or serums prior to each application to dilute the potency.
The Ordinary offers 8 Vitamin C products, so I created this guide on vitamin C products from The Ordinary. The guide breaks down the benefits of each product and who they are best suited for.
Have you tried and had success with any of The Ordinary’s other Vitamin C formulas? If so, let me know!
Pure Vitamin C: Which Is Better?
I didn’t really care for either product due to irritation, but I preferred The Inkey List Vitamin C Cream since it caused slightly less irritation than The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone.
If the price is important to you, The Ordinary is a few dollars cheaper than The Inkey List.
Continue reading for a comparison of less irritating vitamin C derivatives from The Inkey List and The Ordinary.
The Inkey List Retinol Serum vs The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2%
The Inkey List retinol vs The Ordinary retinol – there are many different types of retinoids available on the market today. (Retinol is a type of retinoid.)
Retinoids help fight fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and texture by neutralizing free radicals that break down collagen.
Retinoids can also encourage new collagen production, so they are stand-out ingredients in an anti-aging skincare routine.
It’s important to note that retinoids may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so sunscreen is necessary when using these products and for a week afterward.
Related Post: A Drugstore Guide to Retinol
The Inkey List Retinol Serum
The Inkey List Retinol Serum is formulated with two different retinoids: 1% RetiStar stabilized Retinol and 0.5% Granactive Retinoid to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Retinol, a derivative of Vitamin A, which helps support collagen production and cellular renewal, and a granactive retinoid (ester of all-trans retinoic acid) are combined in a slow-release formula for maximum effect with minimum irritation.
RetiStar Stabilized Retinol is a retinol complex containing 0.05% retinol, tocopherol, sodium ascorbate, and PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil in caprylic/capric triglycerides in an oily dispersion.
So while you may think you are getting 1% retinol from this complex (which would be an extremely high amount of retinol), you are getting 0.05% of retinol plus 0.5% Granactive Retinoid in this serum.
The serum also contains squalane for moisture and hyaluronic acid for added hydration.
Due to the low concentration of retinoids, this could be a great option for beginners. (This was the first retinol/retinoid that I used that did not irritate my skin.)
My skin has improved clarity, and fine lines are diminished when I wake up in the morning after using this serum at night.
For more on this retinol serum, please see my The Inkey List Retinol review.
Related Post: The Best The Inkey List Products for Acne and Oily Skin
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2%
The Ordinary produces six different kinds of retinol, and three of the six products contain a granactive retinoid.
Their granactive retinoid is a complex of solubilized Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR). HPR is a retinoic acid ester delivered in a protective capsule system for improved delivery and effects.
It binds directly with retinoid receptors without the need for further metabolic breakdown into a more active form.
This newer form of retinoid claims to cause less irritation than other retinoids/retinols while being just as effective.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion did not irritate my skin at all, which is very exciting considering I’ve had such a difficult time with retinoids in the past.
Its liquid formula applies smoothly after water-based serums but before thicker serums and creams.
Retinol Serums: Which Is Better?
I found both The Inkey List and The Ordinary retinol/retinoid products very comparable.
I am thrilled to say that neither product irritated my skin, and I woke up in the morning with smoother and brighter skin after using both products.
As I’ve continued to use these two retinoids, I reach for The Ordinary more often than The Inkey List. The liquid formula works well with other skincare products, and I have seen slightly more clarity and smoothing with The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2%
RETINOID UPDATE: There are a lot of affordable retinoids on the market. You can’t go wrong with either retinoid, but the longer I use it, The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2%
Glycolic Acid Toners
The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Toner vs
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
Glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), exfoliates dead skin cells, helps to brighten the skin, refine the skin’s texture, and may particularly benefit oily complexions.
Glycolic acid is a smaller molecule than other acids, such as lactic acid, so glycolic acid travels deeper into the skin.
As a result, some may experience irritation from glycolic acid.
These AHA products may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so be sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher when using these products and for a week afterward.
The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Toner
The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Toner contains 10% glycolic acid and 5% witch hazel for oil control.
This toner is formulated to reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores and helps to improve skin texture and brightness.
After trying both of these glycolic acid products, I’ve determined that, unfortunately, I’m sensitive to glycolic acid.
While I found this toner less irritating than The Ordinary, I did notice that my skin seemed more refined the morning after using this.
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution contains 7% glycolic acid, amino acids, aloe vera, ginseng, and Tasmanian Pepperberry to help combat irritation.
The pH of this product is approximately 3.6, which is nearly the same as the pKa (acid availability) of glycolic acid, which is 3.6.
Having the same pH and pKa indicates a balance between acidity and salts. This allows for maximum efficacy with minimal irritation.
This The Ordinary glycolic acid toner irritated my skin and reddened my face upon application, although I did notice that my skin was brighter and clearer in the morning after using this at night.
Glycolic Acid Toners: Which Is Better?
While both products slightly irritated my skin, I preferred The Ordinary’s packaging and formula. The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Toner is 3.4 oz and $12.99, and
While I found the results comparable, the pricing, formula, and packaging make The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner my pick.
Lactic Acid Serums
The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum vs The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA
Lactic acid is an all-star chemical exfoliator that sweeps away dead skin cells to reveal brighter, more radiant skin and improved skin texture.
Lactic acid molecules are larger than other acids, such as glycolic acid, which means that lactic acid does not penetrate the skin as deeply as glycolic acid.
As a result, lactic acid may be an option for sensitive skin, as it is generally better tolerated than glycolic acid.
The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum
The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum contains 10% lactic acid and 1% low molecular hyaluronic acid.
Low molecular hyaluronic acid has a lower weight, has smaller molecules, and can penetrate deeper into the skin than other varieties of hyaluronic acid.
The serum also contains moisturizing glycerin and antioxidant Agastache Mexicana Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract.
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA contains 10% lactic acid and sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer.
This type of hyaluronic acid has a very high water-binding capacity allowing it to provide long-term moisture.
The serum also contains Tasmanian Pepperberry to help reduce sensitivity and inflammation that can result from lactic acid use.
If this lactic acid serum is too strong for your skin, The Ordinary also offers a 5% Lactic Acid + HA Serum.
Lactic Acid Serums: Which Is Better?
Both lactic acid serums exfoliate dead skin cells leading to brighter and smoother skin. I use lactic acid at night, so I always notice that my skin is more refined in the morning after using these products that work very similarly.
I believe both of these serums are an excellent value for their prices. Currently, The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum is $12.99 for 1 oz., and The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA is a stand-out at $8.90 for 1 oz.
While the products and results are very similar for both brands, the price and packaging give The Ordinary the edge in the comparison between the two.
Alpha Arbutin Serums
The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin Serum vs The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
The more I learn about alpha arbutin, the more I like this ingredient for brightening the skin and reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and discoloration.
Originating in plant species such as bearberry, blueberry, and cranberry, arbutin blocks tyrosinase, the enzyme involved in melanin production. (Excess melanin leads to hyperpigmentation and dark spots.)
Another plus is that arbutin can usually be used by those with sensitive skin since its active element is released slowly.
There are two kinds of arbutin: alpha and beta. Alpha arbutin is considered to be more effective (and more expensive) than beta arbutin.
The following products from The Inkey List and The Ordinary contain alpha arbutin.
The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin Serum
The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin Serum contains alpha arbutin at 2% plus hyaluronic acid, squalane at 0.5%, glycerin, and phospholipids, all ingredients that supply moisture to the skin.
The last ingredient (a small concentration) in the formula is tetrapeptide-30. This peptide protects the skin barrier and can help fade hyperpigmentation.
The serum comes in a tube and has a lightweight opaque gel texture.
After application, it takes a bit of time to dry, but it does not interfere with other skincare and makeup products.
The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
The pH of the formula is approximately 4.9. This is an ideal pH to minimize the degradation of the serum in the presence of water.
The formula comes in a bottle with a dropper. It has the consistency of a clear runny gel.
Like The Inkey List, it takes some time to dry. It does not interfere with the application of other skincare products or makeup.
Alpha Arbutin Serums: Which Is Better?
I find that The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin Serum is slightly more hydrating than The Ordinary. Otherwise, both products behave very similarly. You can use both products in the AM and PM.
Due to the extra hydrating ingredients in The Inkey List formula and the smooth gel texture, I prefer The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin slightly to The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA.
I have yet to see a noticeable change in my skin, but I will continue to use these products as a preventative measure. They will work on current hyperpigmentation and dark spots and also prevent new dark spots from forming.
The Inkey List Rosehip Oil vs The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil
Pressed from wild rosehip fruit seeds, rosehip oil not only moisturizes your skin but does so much more.
A supreme multitasker, it also works as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and has antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. You can use rosehip oil up to twice a day, and it benefits all skin types.
Rosehip oil contains essential fatty acids to support collagen formation and skin elasticity. It is also rich in vitamin C that works as a free-radical fighter in addition to brightening the skin and fighting hyperpigmentation.
Rosehip oil is rich in vitamin A, so please keep this in mind if using it with retinoids since retinoids are vitamin A derivatives and can be harsh on the skin.
The Inkey List Rosehip Oil
The Inkey List Rosehip Oil contains 100% pure rosehip oil rich in omega-6 fatty acids. An Allure magazine Best of Beauty award winner, this oil is light yet nourishing.
Perfect for dull, uneven skin, this rosehip oil brightens with its antioxidant properties.
You’ll only need a few drops as the last step in your skincare routine.
You can also mix a drop or two into your moisturizer or foundation for a beautiful glow.
The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil
The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil is sustainably sourced, organic, cold-pressed rosehip seed oil.
Rich in linoleic acid, linolenic acid, and pro-vitamin A, the oil has a natural scent due to the high omega fatty acid content.
Even though packaged in glass, The Ordinary’s rosehip oil comes in UV-protective packaging. Only a drop or two is needed of this rich but light oil.
Like The Inkey List, it is best used as the last step of your skincare routine and can be mixed in with your foundation or moisturizer.
Rosehip Oil: Which Is Better?
I’ve been using each oil on one side of my face and have found them very similar. They work really well for my skin during cold-weather months. Using these oils as the last step in my skincare routine seals in the water-based products underneath.
The Ordinary is easier to administer with the dropper that comes with the glass bottle, while The Inkey List’s plastic bottle has a flip cap that does a surprisingly good job of controlling the oil flowing from it. Still, I like The Ordinary’s packaging better.
The Ordinary Rosehip has a slightly lighter feel on my skin. Since I usually don’t love my skin feeling oily, I tend to reach for The Ordinary Rosehip Oil more often.
For more on The Ordinary’s rosehip oil, please see my review.
The Inkey List Squalane vs The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane
Squalane is a skincare ingredient that has been getting quite a bit of buzz recently due to its many benefits for the skin.
Squalene (with an “e”) is naturally present in the skin’s barrier and prevents moisture loss but declines as we age.
Squalene is unstable when exposed to oxygen, so for skincare products, hydrogen is added to squalene to form a saturated and stable oil: squalane (with an a).
Plant-derived squalane does so much more than just moisturize the skin. It is non-comedogenic, an emollient, and supports the skin’s natural moisture barrier, preventing transepidermal water loss.
Squalane is non-irritating and helps regulate oil production, making it ideal for all skin types, including sensitive and oily skin.
The Inkey List Squalane
The Inkey List Squalane is 100% plant-derived and contains 100% squalane. This lightweight oil not only moisturizes but also soothes the skin.
You only need a few drops to cover your entire face.
I use this at night, and I think it helps nourish my skin when using retinol and other potentially irritating products.
For those that like a glow, you can give it a try during the day or add a drop or two to your foundation.
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane is also 100% plant-derived, as the title indicates, and, like The Inkey List, contains only plant-derived squalane.
This is an even lighter-feeling squalane oil that sinks in quickly and is a real-deal multitasker.
I use it as the last step of my skincare routine, but I think both oils are light enough to use under a moisturizer.
NOTE: The Ordinary also has a gentle and hydrating Squalane Cleanser, ideal for dry skin.
I found a new favorite ingredient: SQUALANE! I can’t get over how light yet hydrating and plumping squalane oil is.
It really is ruining other oils for me because it feels so weightless on my skin. Both of these squalane oils are very light, which stood out to me during testing.
The packaging of the products is the most significant difference that I noticed.
The Ordinary comes in a glass bottle with a dropper. The Inkey List comes in a plastic tube with a disc cap. Using the tube with a disc cap could be a bit messy.
You don’t want to waste the oil and have it run down the side of the tube. But the disc cap has two opening levels that control the flow of oil.
Squalane Serums: Which Is Better?
I slightly preferred The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane over The Inkey List Squalane due to the more elegant packaging and lighter feel.
Also, The Ordinary Squalane is a few dollars cheaper than The Inkey List.
Vitamin C Derivatives
The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Brightening Serum vs The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside 12%
The Ordinary has a catalog of 8 vitamin C products, some pure L-ascorbic acid, and some derivatives of L-ascorbic acid.
The Inkey List has one pure L-ascorbic acid product and one vitamin C derivative containing Ascorbyl Glucoside.
So for this comparison, I will take a look at each brand’s product that contains Ascorbyl Glucoside, an L-ascorbic acid derivative.
The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Brightening Serum
The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Brightening Serum is formulated with 15% Ascorbyl Glucoside, a vitamin C derivative.
Ascorbyl Glucoside converts to pure vitamin C in the skin, so it is less potent than pure vitamin C.
This vitamim C serum also contains 1% Epitensive, a plant-derived Epidermal Growth Factor system. It contains a protein that promotes cellular regeneration, collagen production, and skin elasticity.
This product is formulated to brighten dull and stressed-out skin. It is a lightweight gel formula that produces zero irritation on my skin.
It dries quickly with very little tackiness. Makeup applies easily after using this serum.
The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside 12%
While pure vitamin C/L-ascorbic acid is unstable in water, The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside 12%, a vitamin C derivative serum, is water-soluble.
Although this derivative is more stable than pure vitamin C, it is less effective than L-ascorbic acid since it must be converted to L-ascorbic acid in the skin.
With that being said, this product still has skin-brightening benefits and other benefits of the antioxidant power of pure vitamin C.
A noticeable benefit of this product is its comfortable wear.
The serum absorbs very quickly without any stickiness or greasy feeling that may come along with other vitamin C derivatives from The Ordinary.
I’ve experienced no sensitivity or stinging from this product. It works well with makeup, too.
Vitamin C Derivative Serums Which Is Better?
Both serums have a comfortable skin feel and wear well with makeup. If you compare these products based on the formulas, The Inkey List slightly edges out The Ordinary.
The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Brightening Serum contains 3% more Ascorbyl Glucoside and has bonus anti-aging ingredients in the form of Epidermal Growth Factor.
Acid Facial Peels
The Inkey List Apple Cider Vinegar Acid Peel vs The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
Both acid facial peels from The Inkey List and The Ordinary contain a potent amount of direct acids to unclog pores, improve skin texture and help improve the appearance of blemishes and congestion.
The Inkey List Apple Cider Vinegar Acid Peel
The Inkey List Apple Cider Vinegar Acid Peel is a powerful exfoliating facial peel that contains 10% glycolic acid. This alpha hydroxy acid gets deep into pores to sweep away dead skin cells.
It also contains a 5% multi-fruit acid blend for additional exfoliation and to smooth the skin.
A 2% concentration of Apple Cider Vinegar contains acetic acid to reduce blemish-causing bacteria and citric, lactic, and succinic acids to support an even skin tone.
The peel also contains Willow Bark Extract, a natural salicylate, similar to salicylic acid, which has astringent and anti-inflammatory properties.
This rinse-off 10-minute peel smells just like apple cider vinegar.
I have somewhat sensitive skin, and I could only tolerate a very thin layer, as glycolic acid is a little too strong for my skin.
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is a 10-minute exfoliating facial only for advanced users of acid exfoliation.
This peel contains 30% alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) in the form of glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acids, plus 2% beta hydroxy acid (BHA) in the form of salicylic acid.
The peel also contains hyaluronic acid cross polymer for extended hydration. Vitamin B5 helps heal the skin, while black carrot provides antioxidant properties.
A Tasmanian pepperberry derivate helps to reduce irritation that is associated with exfoliating acids.
This high combination of AHAs is included in this formula to exfoliate dead skin cells in the outermost layer of skin cells to even skin tone and to brighten the appearance of your complexion.
Salicylic acid exfoliates and helps to clear pore congestion, which is ideal for oily complexions.
Due to the high concentration of free acids, The Ordinary warns that this peel should not be used on sensitive, peeling, or compromised skin and recommends that it be used only by experienced users of acid exfoliation.
The first thing that jumps out at you regarding this treatment is the color.
It is a blood-red shade that looks very odd when applied to your skin. It is a VERY strong treatment, and while effective, I think others out there provide similar results without such high chances for irritation.
I’ve used this a few times, and it’s just too strong for my skin.
Acid Facial Peels: Which Is Better?
If you do not have sensitive skin and can tolerate high acid concentrations, The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution could be a good choice for you. It’s less expensive than The Inkey List, too.
I am not a huge fan of The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution due to my somewhat sensitive skin type.
The Inkey List Apple Cider Vinegar Acid Peel has a lower concentration of acids but provided similar results as The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution for my skin, so for this comparison, The Inkey List gets my vote.
Caffeine Eye Treatments
The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream vs The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG
The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream
The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream is formulated to reduce the appearance of puffiness and dark circles.
Caffeine works as a diuretic that helps to relieve water retention, a contributing factor to under-eye puffiness. This eye cream also contains Matrixyl 3000 peptide.
Matrixyl 3000 combines Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 with Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
This caffeine eye cream is lightweight yet has a creamy feel. It provides the perfect canvas for eye makeup such as concealer.
It’s not the slightest bit sticky or greasy and feels silky and hydrating thanks to the addition of squalane for extra moisture.
The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG
The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG is a gel formula that contains a high 5% concentration of caffeine and highly-purified Epigallocatechin Gallatyl Glucoside (EGCG) from green tea leaves.
EGCG provides protective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Caffeine and EGCG have been shown to reduce the look of puffiness and dark circles in the eye contour.
This is a gel-like serum. It doesn’t seem to provide the moisturizing effect of a typical eye cream, so when I use this, I often need to later another eye cream on top for additional moisture under my eyes.
NOTE: The Ordinary clearly states that there are some situations where this serum won’t help with dark circles, like if you have hollowness in the eye contour due to sub-dermal tissue structure (i.e., fat or bone), or fat deposits that can cause permanent puffiness.
Caffeine Eye Treatments: Which Is Better?
I have thin skin and fat loss under my eyes, so I wasn’t expecting either product to tackle my dark circles, but it did seem like The Ordinary’s serum had a tightening effect and helped a little with puffiness.
Yet, The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG’s serum texture left my eye area a bit dry and in need of additional moisture.
Since neither product could make a noticeable improvement in my dark circles, it came down to other anti-aging benefits. In addition to caffeine, The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream also contains Matrixyl 3000 peptide to combat pesky fine lines.
It feels silky and hydrating, plus it provides an excellent base for makeup without needing to layer an additional product for more moisture. Between the two eye products, I reach for The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream more often.
Related Post: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution Review
Azelaic Acid Serums
Azelaic acid is an anti-inflammatory that helps reduce the appearance of redness, while also fighting bacteria and clearing pores. Azelaic acid can even help with acne.
The Inkey List 10% Azelaic Acid Serum vs The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension
The Inkey List Redness Relief Solution 10% Azelaic Acid Serum
From The Inkey List SuperSolutions line of skincare products developed with dermatologists comes The Inkey List Redness Relief Solution 10% Azelaic Acid Serum, a specialized serum to reduce redness.
The serum contains 10% azelaic acid in a creamy quick-absorbing serum. The azelaic acid serum is ideal for dark spots, uneven skin tone and redness.
The serum also contains micro-fine green-colored particles, which help mask redness. A 0.3% concentration of allantoin helps moisturize and soothe skin.
The serum is non-pilling and has a comfortable texture on the skin. The Inkey List notes that it leaves no white-cast or crunchy layer on your skin when used with other products.
The gentle serum is even suitable for those with rosacea.
Ideal for acne-prone skin, Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% helps reduce the look of redness, dullness, and textural irregularities.
The Ordinary notes that this formula is a great alternative to exfoliating acids (i.e. glycolic acid, lactic acid) as it has a lower chance of irritating your skin.
This means that it can be used daily for a gentle but effective brightening treatment.
The formula has a somewhat thick and grainy texture that should be applied to your skin after water-based treatments but before oils and creams.
Azelaic Acid Serums: Which Is Better?
While I think both are effective formulas, The Inkey List has a much more elegant texture and feel on my skin.
Even though it’s pricier than The Ordinary, I tend to experience slightly less irritation from The Inkey List, too, so I prefer The Inkey List’s azelaic acid to The Ordinary’s.
1% Retinol Serums
The Inkey List Scar, Mark and Wrinkle Solution 1% Retinol Serum vs The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane
The Inkey List Scar, Mark and Wrinkle Solution 1% Retinol Serum
The Inkey List Scar, Mark and Wrinkle Solution 1% Retinol Serum is a potent 1% retinol serum formulated to reduce the look of post-acne scars, including scar size, depth, and discoloration.
The serum also has anti-aging benefits as it reduces the look of wrinkles and fine lines.
The treatment is enriched with 5% apricot kernel oil which helps the skin retain moisture. A 2% squalane concentration helps protect and improve the skin’s barrier.
Avocado oil also helps moisturize and add suppleness to the skin.
The thick yellow serum has a nourishing and moisturizing consistency. The serum absorbs quickly without leaving my skin feeling greasy or sticky.
The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane
The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane is a highly concentrated 1% retinol serum in a lightweight squalane base that targets the visible signs of aging while offsetting some of the drying effects of retinol.
The water-free serum also contains jojoba oil, which moisturizes your skin, plus tomato fruit extract and rosemary leaf extract, potent antioxidants to help protect the skin from environmental aggressors.
The texture is very lightweight but nourishing thanks to non-greasy squalane, which is non-comedogenic and won’t cause acne and breakouts.
1% Retinol Serums: Which Is Better?
While both serums are very potent, I experience less irritation with The Inkey List than with The Ordinary.
You can choose which texture you prefer: the golden creamy serum of The Inkey List or the thin dry oil-like texture of The Ordinary.
The Ordinary does beat The Inkey List out on price, though. The Inkey List costs nearly 3x as much as The Ordinary!
Peptides, which are short amino acid chains, are considered building blocks of proteins like collagen and elastin, which keep our skin looking firm and youthful.
There are hundreds of peptides, and some can help reduce the look of wrinkles, increase skin elasticity, thickness, and suppleness, and decrease sagginess and roughness.
The Inkey List Collagen Booster vs The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum
The Inkey List Collagen Booster
The Inkey List Collagen Booster (now called The Inkey List Collagen Peptide Serum) addresses the visible signs of aging with multiple peptides that help make your skin look firmer and plumper.
Collagen is a protein that helps your skin stay firm and supple. The serum uses peptides that mimic the effects of collagen in your skin to improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
This peptide serum contains Matrixyl 3000, an effective peptide duo that helps smooth the look of wrinkles and fine lines and improves skin elasticity, roughness, and tone.
Syn-Tacks Dual Peptide is another peptide in the formula that supports collagen in your skin for a firmer, smoother-looking complexion.
The serum also contains hyaluronic acid for extra hydration and moisture.
The lightweight serum glides effortlessly over the skin and can be used in both your morning and evening skincare routines.
You can even add a few drops of the serum into your body moisturizer for firmer-looking skin on your body.
The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum
The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum (previously known as The Ordinary “Buffet”) combines several technologies to reduce the visible signs of aging.
The serum contains Matrixyl 3000, like The Inkey List, PLUS three additional peptides: SYN-AKE, Matrixyl synthe’6, and ARGIRELOX peptide.
The serum also contains multiple hyaluronic acid complexes and moisturizing amino acids for a plumper, more hydrated complexion.
The serum can be used twice a day and helps improve the look of crow’s feet, skin elasticity, and firmness and improves skin texture and smoothness.
Which Peptide Serum Is Better?
If you look at the ingredient lists, there is no doubt that The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum is a more complete anti-aging serum.
It contains additional peptides, amino acids, and hyaluronic acid complexes to address the signs of aging while hydrating and moisturizing your skin.
But if you are just starting out and want a basic anti-aging serum or are looking for a more affordable serum, The Inkey List is a few dollars cheaper than The Ordinary, so it’s also a great choice.
About The Ordinary
The Ordinary skincare brand’s tagline is “Clinical Formulations with Integrity”. They want to bring pricing and communication integrity to the forefront of the skincare industry.
The Ordinary falls under the umbrella of brands from Deciem. Other higher-end skincare brands owned by Deciem include Niod and Hylamide, so The Ordinary enjoys the backing of an extensive family of skincare brands and their research.
The Ordinary was launched in 2017 and has become a go-to for low-priced, high-quality hero-ingredient skincare products.
You can read more about my experience with The Ordinary in this review of The Ordinary skincare products.
About The Inkey List
The Inkey List aims to help you work through beauty jargon by delivering key active skincare ingredients at budget prices.
They offer trendy and classic products in plain plastic packaging, which allows for their rock-bottom prices. This keeps the focus on the product inside the packaging.
The Inkey List uses their askINKEY platforms to help empower and educate their community.
A fantastic hyaluronic acid for about $10? Yes, please!!
If you are wondering if The Inkey List is good, be sure to check out my The Inkey List review.
Final Thoughts on The Inkey List vs The Ordinary
I really like these straightforward hero-ingredient products from The Inkey List and The Ordinary and their budget-friendly prices.
I found that The Ordinary was more transparent with their ingredients and formulations, and I preferred their packaging by a mile. And, on the whole, The Ordinary prices are a bit lower than The Inkey List.
The Inkey List has some great product formulations as well, and overall, I think The Inkey List’s products are more elegant in texture and skin feel.
Mix and Match
Ultimately, both brands complement each other. The Inkey List has four cleansers, while The Ordinary only has two.
The Ordinary has six retinoids and eight vitamin C products, while The Inkey List has two retinoids and two vitamin C-focused products.
I mix and match their products based on my skin’s needs.
- The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid
- The Inkey List Retinol Serum
- The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA
- The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
- The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane
You can try many of The Inkey List and The Ordinary products for the price of one expensive luxury brand product and often get better results than the high-end product.
I expect we will see more of these lower-priced no-frills brands soon if the success of The Inkey List and The Ordinary is any indication.
Yay for low-cost, high-quality anti-aging skincare!!